B5 Lotr

"A Note on Tolkien, Sinclair, Sheridan, and Delenn"

by Frieda Landau (April 22, 1997)

[Note from the webmasters: The opinion expressed in this article is not necessarily the opinion of berry and ern. Can't be because berry and ern have yet to read 'The Silmarillion'...]

"Of course I've read and enjoyed Tolkien. But as I've said, I have no interest in doing LoTR with the serial numbers filed off."
(J. Michael Straczynski, March 21, 1995)

Tolkien believed that an author should be taken at his word. Let us take Straczynski at his word that Lord of the Rings is not the basis for Babylon 5. This does not mean that there are no Tolkien influences or allusions in Babylon 5. But rather than looking to Lord of the Rings, we should look to the "older histories:" The Silmarillion. These influences can best be seen in the characters of Sinclair, Delenn, and Sheridan. Remember, these are allusions, not exact parallels.

Jeffrey Sinclair has been compared to Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, mainly because Sinclair was Ranger One. A more valid comparison would be to Earendil the Mariner. Earendil, a man, sails into the West to obtain the aid of the Valar in the war against the great Enemy. Later, Earendil saves the alliance of Elves and Men from defeat in the crucial battle of the war. He becomes of Elven kind and sails the heavens in his ship. Earendil is known as the guiding star of his people.

Sinclair turned Valen

Sinclair takes Babylon 4 back in space and time to save the day for the Minbari in the first Shadow war. He works with the Vorlons (whose true appearance is very similar to the descriptions of the Valar) to defeat the Shadows. Like Earendil, Sinclair transforms into another race. As Valen, the Minbari not born of Minbari, Sinclair becomes the leader of his new people. He reorganizes the government, brings peace to the warring clans, and sets the pattern for much of the spiritual life of Minbar. Valen's prophecies influence the Minbari for a thousand years. Even after the prophecies end, Valen is still revered. Sinclair as Valen indeed becomes the guiding star of the Minbari.

John Sheridan has also been compared to Aragorn. In some ways it is a valid comparison. Like Aragorn, Sheridan becomes the leader of the forces of light against the great darkness of the Shadows. And like Aragorn, Sheridan's forces are not as strong as those of his enemies. But a more apt comparison is to Beren, the great hero of the first war.

Beren finds a new home in the kingdom of Thingol. There Beren meets and falls in love with the elven princess Luthien. Before they can marry, Beren agrees to pay the bride price demanded of him. He goes alone into the heart of the great Enemy's camp. After dealing a crushing blow, Beren is killed while escaping. He is restored to life and marries Luthien. The couple make their home in a place known as the "Land of the Dead Who Live Again." Their son, Dior, rules both elves and men after them.

I cannot imagine my world without you in it...

This has a familiar ring to it. Sheridan makes Babylon 5 his home after he is forced to sever ties with Earth. There he meets and falls in love with a Minbari woman who is a power in her own right. John agrees to follow Minabri mating rituals. They will have a son named David who will be a bridge between both kindreds.

Like Beren, Sheridan is the acknowledged mortal leader of the forces arrayed against the Darkness. Beren loses his father and brothers in the struggle. Sheridan sacrifices his ties to his surrogate family - Earthforce - to the war. John, again like Beren, administers the first defeat to the homeworld of the enemy.


Before John and Delenn can marry, John goes to Z'ha'dum to confront the Shadows. He destroys their major center of operations and dies while trying to escape. Beren is restored to life through the intercession of the Valar, the immortal and first race created by the One (Illuvator) to people the world. Sheridan is restored to life by Lorien, the first sentient being, who is also immortal. In fact, the name Lorien was originally used by Tolkien for the elven equivalent of the Elysian Fields and then for the elven kingdom where time does not bring decay.

If Sheridan is Beren, then obviously, Delenn is Luthien, who changes from elven to human kind; just as Delenn changes from Minbari to Human. But before we discuss her resemblance to Luthien, let us examine another possible influence from the Silmarillion.

Delenn defies the Grey Council to ally herself with the humans on Babylon 5 and is banished by the Council for her actions. Part of the Minbari forces - the Rangers, and most of the Religious and Worker castes - follow her lead. These actions very loosely parallel the actions of Galadrial in the Silmarillion.

Leading a great part of her people (the Noldar). Galadrial defies the Valar to go to Middle Earth to take part in the war against the Darkness. As a result, she is banished forever from the West. It is not until the end of the War of the Ring that she is allowed to return to Eressea. Despite her banishment, Galadrial has great power of her own and plays a crucial role in the great war against Morgoth.


The stronger influence on Delenn, however, is Luthien. Like the elven princess, Delenn falls in love with a man from another race. She fights at his side against the Darkness. Just as Luthien saves Beren's life, Delenn saves John, first against the Streib and then against Earthforce when the station is attacked. Together, John and Delenn fight against the Shadows until John goes to Z'ha'dum without her and dies. Luthien withers in sorrow after Beren dies; Delenn determines to starve to death to join John in death.

The most important resemblance between Delenn and Luthien is the transformation of both women. Luthien becomes mortal to stay with Beren. Delenn, using the triluminary, becomes mostly human to balance Sinclair's transformation to Minbari. Her change enables her to mate with the man she loves. But, as a result of the first death of their men, both women will lose their loves too soon.

Sinclair, Sheridan, and Delenn are three strong and individual characters in their own right. While their creation was undoubtedly influenced to some extent by Tolkien's work, they are uniquely the children of J. Michael Straczynski.

B5 vs. LotR